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Full text of "Rapid Population Growth Consequences And Policy Implications"

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In developed countries the upper and middle income groups take material advantages for granted and are acutely conscious of the secondary effects these advantages produce. In the same societies the lower income groups are far more conscious of their material needs and tend to ignore side effects.
Measuring Changes in Quality of Life
Measuring changes in the quality of life should take account of both improvements and deteriorations. It should be a weighted average taking account of differences in preferences and reactions at specified levels of cost, and perhaps of intensities of such preferences (which surely would have a very real effect in a market situation).
It is one thing to judge that things are "bad" and quite another to judge that they are "worse." As has been suggested, there is little evidence on the second, especially as one looks further and further back and is careful to add up the pluses and minuses. There is, on the other hand, widening and justified attention to how "bad" matters are in terms of quality.
Partial answers can be obtained by considering deterioration of specific aspects of life. Although good measurements still are scarce, air pollution, water pollution, urban density, overcrowding of recreation areas, etc., as evidenced in recent years, suggest a worsening. To the best of our knowledge, these conditions have not as yet become irreversible (except for vanished species); that is, they are, at a cost, amenable to treatment by both new technology and changes in incentives and institutions. It is perhaps worth noting, however, that the one area probably least amenable to such treatment is deterioration in the "space-solitude-privacy" complex due to sheer rise in numbers of people (from the subway rush to the crowded recreation spot), a phenomenon to which there is as yet no promising approach. This statement is not contradicted by the likelihood that life in a metropolis can provide more social privacy than in a small town. There are a few well-developed devices for dealing with the "overload" of environmental stress caused by numbers and proximity. But the intrusions, especially those of a physical kind, become harder to ward off, notwithstanding adaptive behavior. And they surely are a factor in the quality of life.
Problems in Low Income Countries
Most of what has just been described applies more to high income than to low income countries, partly because living at the margin of subsistence in developing countries allows little to be finally disposed of or abandoned, i.e., the rate of recycling is high. Low income restricts both the magnitude and the variety of consumption, including consumption of energy in all its manifestations. The ills caused by poverty leave little room for concern about—or expenditures for—the environment in ways that now preoccupy many people